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SynTerra advocacy

​SynTerra’s Gardner and Prater support Harlan County updates and renovations.

Posted June 25, 2021

Karen Roberts Prater (right) and Steve Gardner of SynTerra presented to the Harlan County Tourism Commission recently. Attendees included commission member Lucille Sturgill (left) and Deputy County Judge/Court Executive Colby Goss (center).

Vice President Steve Gardner and Project Administrator Karen Roberts Prater of SynTerra recently presented at three events in Harlan County, Kentucky, regarding the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Pilot Grant Project. The grant funds updates and renovations to the Portal 31 Exhibition Coal Mine, the Lynch Bath House historical restoration, and the Black Mountain High Point Tower Site. The AML Pilot Grant Program was born as a proof of concept for the RECLAIM act, with its focus on community development and economic growth with correlations to historic, AML-eligible mine sites.

The Harlan County Fiscal Court was awarded the $2.55 million grant in 2018. The primary purposes of the project is to upgrade electronics in the Portal 31 Exhibition Coal Mine attraction, restore the historic miners’ bath house, and develop the observation platform at Black Mountain, the highest point of elevation in Kentucky.

The Portal 31 project was launched in 1996 when Gardner began work on transferring the property from Arch Coal to the county. Dr. Bruce Ayers, then President of Southeast Community College in nearby Cumberland, had been working on the concept of an exhibition mine since 1977. Ayers worked tirelessly to obtain the original funding for opening such an attraction. Gardner led the design and construction management team, with Portal 31 opening to the public in 2009. In 2010, the project won an American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Grand Conceptor Award for engineering design.

Gardner and Prater have spoken at the Harlan County Tourism Monthly Meeting, the Harlan County Fiscal Court Meeting, and a special public meeting held in Lynch at the historic Railroad Depot located near the Portal 31 Exhibition Coal Mine.